09/13/2004 11:00PM

Asmussen dreaming of Cuvee revival


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Of course Steve Asmussen will allow himself to think about the Breeders' Cup Sprint for Cuvee.

After all, a parade of good 3-year-olds have come out of the Kentucky Cup Sprint to run back in the Breeders' Cup.

But Asmussen also realizes that Cuvee is faced with difficult circumstances in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint, part of the five-race Kentucky Cup series that will be renewed Saturday at Turfway Park in Florence. After a blockbuster 2-year-old season that led Cuvee to be the 8-5 favorite in last fall's BC Juvenile, the colt has had just one race in the interim - and a not-so-good one at that.

"I can still think about the Breeders' Cup, can't I?" Asmussen asked playfully by phone while horse shopping Tuesday morning at the Keeneland September sale. "That can't hurt anything, I wouldn't think."

Just as quickly, Asmussen conceded that Cuvee will have to run "incredibly well" to carry the maroon and white silks of Winchell Thoroughbreds in the Oct. 30 BC Sprint at Lone Star Park.

After his 12th-place finish in the BC Juvenile, Cuvee underwent knee surgery. Then, after getting caught up in a wicked pace and finishing a distant second to Fire Slam in his only start at 3, the six-furlong Matt Winn Stakes on May 8 at Churchill Downs, Cuvee came down with a serious lung infection that, Asmussen said, "took even more time than we had planned.

"We had to really back off him and get that thing cleared up. He actually could have run before now, but with all the rain at Saratoga, it kind of threw us off his work schedule."

But following a solid pattern of workouts, Cuvee, by the noted speed sire Carson City, is primed for another comeback, this time in a six-furlong, Grade 3 race that has been an amazingly productive prep for the Breeders' Cup. Two 3-year-olds, Reraise (1998) and Cajun Beat (2003), won the BC Sprint after winning at Turfway, while other top-class sprinters such as Lord Carson, Appealing Skier, and Successful Appeal have started in the Breeders' Cup following a Kentucky Cup win.

Asmussen is cautiously optimistic that Cuvee can regain the kind of form that made him a three-time stakes winner at 2, but all he really wants to see Saturday is an encouraging first step.

"Obviously we're just wanting to get him back right, get him where he was before he had the misfortune of injury and illness," he said. "This race at Turfway is usually a nice spot for a horse of his caliber, so we'll go up there hoping for something good to happen."

Cuvee, with Shane Sellers to ride, is one of seven or eight 3-year-olds that Turfway officials are expecting for the Sprint. The other probables include Heckle, Intrinsic Worth, Silver Minister, Danieltown, Quick Action, and Level Playingfield.

Entries for all Kentucky Cup races will be drawn Thursday at a media luncheon at Turfway.

Roses in May keeping field size down

Even with Perfect Drift out, and even with trainer Kiaran McLaughlin saying Tuesday that he is not sending Seattle Fitz or Eye of the Tiger from New York, the ominous presence of Roses in May is severely limiting the prospective field size of the richest of the Kentucky Cup events, the $350,000 Classic.

Roses in May, with John Velazquez to ride, will be a very short price in the 1 1/8-mile Classic, a Grade 2 race that trainer Dale Romans has pegged as a final prep for the BC Classic for the 4-year-old colt.

Alumni Hall was still under consideration Tuesday morning for the Classic, but trainer Neil Howard said "it's still doubtful" he would enter the 5-year-old horse.

Besides Roses in May, the Classic is supposed to land Adreamisborn, Pie N Burger, Sonic West, and Stratostar.

Mayo on the Side favored

Probably the best betting race of the day will be the only event for older fillies and mares, the $175,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup. Mayo on the Side, with Robby Albarado to ride for trainer Carl Nafzger, figures as the favorite in a field of eight or nine.

Pat Day, the leading rider in Kentucky Cup history with 10 wins, will ride La Reason for trainer David Vance.

Lukas loaded with 2-year-olds

D. Wayne Lukas, who has a record 13 Kentucky Cup winners, has live prospects in both Kentucky Cup races for 2-year-olds.

Lukas will run Winning Season in a medium-sized field for the $100,000 Juvenile Fillies at one mile, and he will run either Consolidator or Storied Cat in the $100,000 Juvenile, a 1 1/16-mile race also expected to draw no more than seven or eight starters.

Day will ride for Lukas in both races.